In his book “Irresistible: The Rise Of Addictive Technology And The Business Of Keeping Us Hooked, Adam Alter explains how we can mitigate their most damaging effects on our well-being and the health and happiness of our children.

So many of today’s products are irresistible explains Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at New York University. While these products are miraculous, they are tweaked over time by the companies that design them until they become almost impossible to resist. “Tech isn’t morally good or bad until it’s wielded by corporations that fashion it for mass consumption.” (Pg. 8) There is a long list of efficient and addictive tech “hooks.” The cost is significant.

Irresistible traces the rise of addictive behaviors, examining where they begin, who designs them, the psychological tricks that make them so compelling, and how to minimize dangerous behavior addiction as well as harnessing the same science for beneficial ends.

Developer Kevin Holesh designed an app called Moment, which tracks daily usage. Holesh discovered 88% of users were overusing their devices. Each month almost 100 hours was lost to checking email, texting, playing games, surfing the web, reading articles, checking bank balances, etc. Over the average lifetime, that amounts to a staggering eleven years. (Pg. 15)

Substance addictions and behavioral addictions are in many ways similar. They activate the same brain regions and they’re fueled by some of the same basic human needs. (Pg. 9) The key is to understand why behavioral addictions are so rampant, how they capitalize on human psychology, and how to defeat the addictions that hurt us, and harness the ones that help us. (Pg. 10)

Lisa Point, a social worker at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, works with teens who struggle with what she calls “problematic use” of their phones and technology. She recommends that parents find a middle ground and suggests things to make technology less tempting. “Things like not keeping their phones with them at night … Things like turning off alerts or putting their phones in airplane mode when they are studying … Anything that can help people focus.”

John Laprise suggests that the concern over the obsession teens have with their phones is misguided. He is a consulting scholar in internet policy and governance who has studied the history of technology. “I think we have to be cautious because with every new technology we have an accompanying moral panic – especially when it comes to children and teens.” Laprise suggests that smart phones help people build self-confidence and find a peer group online that can be supportive and helpful.

Ref: “The Disruptors” on The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti, CBC Radio.